I tend to cook a lot of Asian food (probably not a surprising statement from the author of The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen), and one of my favorite staples is miso paste. If you’re not familiar with miso paste, it’s a common ingredient in Japanese cooking, made from a combination of fermented soybeans plus a grain. Rice is used most frequently, but it can also be made from barley or other grains as well. (Be sure to always check the label to make sure it’s gluten free—you’re basically looking for soybeans, rice, and salt.)
Miso adds saltiness and richness to a dish. Its flavor ranges from sweet and mild (as in white or “shiro” miso) to salty and pungent (red or brown miso); usually the darker colors have a stronger flavor. You’ll find miso refrigerated in small plastic tubs or sturdy bags. Occasionally you’ll find it in an aseptic pack in the Asian-foods aisle or the organics aisle. You can keep it in the fridge for at least six months.
When I first started incorporating miso into my cooking, it was generally in traditional Asian dishes (think miso soup). But after reading David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook, my eyes were opened to the greatest concoction of all time: miso butter. By simply mixing together equal parts butter and miso, you’ll have an extraordinary tool at your disposal. It’s especially tasty with vegetables—I’ve slathered it on corn-on-the cob, steamed green beans, roasted asparagus—but you won’t be disappointed by a knob of miso butter on your steak either.
For this particular dish, I originally tried cutting heads of baby bok choy in half, rubbing them with miso butter, and then grilling them. The stalks took on a lovely golden brown color, but the leaves just charred to the point of no return. Then I decided to treat the bok choy as two separate vegetables, thinly shredding the leaves and tossing them with a simple lemon vinaigrette as a bed for the grilled stalks. The salad wilts under the heat of the bok choy and keeps the integrity of each part of the vegetable in tact. I think you’ll enjoy it. Cheers! ~LbR